How many times in your lifetime have you heard "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger". And how many times have you responded,"Really, because I feel so bad that I wish it would just go ahead and kill me already!!!!" Turns out, German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who is often credited with the quote, was right but it depends on your perception.
Health Psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, has discovered that the way we view stress and adversity matters more than previously thought. McGonigal admits in her recent Ted Talk that for the past 10 years, she's been approaching stress all wrong. Upon review of several key studies, McGonigal realized thatinstead of teaching people to avoid stress, she should be teaching them that stress can actually make you stronger. But, here's the catch, only if you believe it will make you stronger.
One study McGonigal examined from the University of Wisconsin found that individuals who experience a lot of stress and who view the stress as bad tend to fare the worst. The study actually found that these individuals had a 43% increased risk of premature death as compared to those who experienced a lot of stress but viewed it as a normal part of life!
So what's actually going on here. How is that possible? To answer that question, we have to take a closer look at the physiology of our stress response system which essentially has two parts; an activation system and a recovery system, each with it's own set of hormones designed to keep us in balance and insulate us from future stress. Cortisol, the hormone most associated with the dreaded belly fat, is part of the activation system that energizes our body to face the stress while DHEA and nerve growth factor, part of the recovery system, help us learn and grow from the stress.
Turns out, the ratio of DHEA to Cortisol, referred to as the growth index of your stress response system, impacts the learning that comes from the stressful event. A higher ratio of DHEA to Cortisol and you're more likely to experience the positive effects of stress while a higher ratio of Cortisol to DHEA may cause you to develop feelings of fear, anxiety and depression
following a stressful event.
So, sounds interesting, but what can we do to ensure that our growth index balances in our favor? Well, science now tells us that we can impact our stress hormones just by changing the way we view stress. If you can learn how to view stress as an opportunity for growth rather than an enemy that must be avoided, you can improve your growth index! Sounds simple, right?!
But, as is often the case in life, SIMPLE does not always equal EASY!